The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.
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Political Asylum in the Trump era

Фото: Depositphotos

America is still the promised land for millions of people. Getting to the United States is a dream that for many is becoming a reality - a difficult, dangerous way of obtaining political asylum. As a reminder, asylum is granted in case of persecution in the homeland on the basis of political or religious beliefs, as well as harassment based on nationality, ethnicity, or belonging to a particular social group (in particular, LGBT people). There are many online asylum instructions. However, the rules tend to change over time; and this is especially noticeable after the onset of the “Trump era”.

Time for a change

Jeanne and Alain (names changed), 30 and 32 years, flew to New York in mid-October 2016. For several years they lived in a same-sex union.

“We flew to the country of freedom, the mood was upbeat,” says Alain. - Nowhere in a hurry, because a friend said, they say, anyway, you submit the case in nine months. While you are settling in, while you find a lawyer, while you prepare the entire package of documents ... Everybody does it. "

The first few weeks the girls traveled around the country - choosing where to stay, admiring the local beauty. When colorful Halloween went off, the election broke out - and suddenly something went wrong: Donald Trump, who won the presidential election, was talking about how he planned to fight illegal migration, and called on the first day of presidency to abolish federal same-sex marriage law. . For girls it would be fatal: they hoped in the United States to find freedom from discrimination and oppression. “It would not be an imaginary problem: if our marriage became invalid, we would not be able to file a general case,” explains Jeanne. - We fell into a real panic. Moreover, for several days and even weeks the country was in a fever - marches of dissent began, rallies, even pogroms. All this we saw on TV and studied on the Internet. In the end, we decided to return to New York and forget about the cozy "provincial" states, about the warm South: New York is a refuge city, there is a large Russian-speaking LGBT community. We realized that we can not survive without support, especially given the changes in public sentiment. "

Фото: Depositphotos

Upon returning, the girls began to look for a lawyer as a matter of urgency. According to them, it was difficult: for each pro-bono (i.e., free), a lawyer lined up with a few eager ones. Many decided not to wait and filled out forms themselves. “We had to repeat our story several times in order to find our lawyer,” says Alyona. - It is not easy: we did not expect such an emotional and nervous load at all. The first months were just awful in the area of ​​pressure from outside. As a result, we filed the I-589 form literally in the last days of December; In the middle of January, they already received confirmation and were immediately fingerprinted. Then the inauguration struck, and it turned out that the new president of America decided to “cancel” his intentions, which had previously been announced so loudly. Of course, we exhaled with relief and now we are quietly preparing the case. ”

“The era of Trump has brought new features to the asylum process,” says immigration lawyer Sebastien Maguire. - Trump's hostility towards immigrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, has affected a wide range of aspects of the system; some of them are known to us, while others will remain obscure for years. ”

Immigration lawyer Sebastien Maguire. Photos from the personal archive

Alexey Gorshkov, co-president of RUSAL LGBT, the organization of Russian-speaking queer émigrés in the United States, stresses: “Basically, the new political climate causes chaos in thoughts and judgments. People start hysteria, give out the wrong information, and this leads to prostration. And, of course, it is impossible not to mention that, unfortunately, the flow of immigration from Russia will soon decrease due to the restriction of issuing visas and closing consulates throughout Russia. We live on a fairly critical immigration peak. ”

What is important to know

To obtain asylum you need to perform a number of actions:

- it is legal to get to the USA (you can also ask for asylum at the border, but this option is fraught with additional difficulties);

- choose where you want to live, and have a permanent postal address - it is here that all forms and documents will come;

- send to the USCIS office corresponding to your state, the I-589 form and the package of documents (so-called case), which includes your life history and supporting documents;

- Receive a confirmation letter from USCIS with your personal A-number;

- submit biometric data in the office corresponding to your state;

- receive in the mail the form I-757 (Notice of Action);

- 150 days after your case was sent to USCIS, submit an I-765 form - in order to obtain work permits (EAD) and then a social security number (SSN);

- legally live and work in the United States, waiting for an invitation for an interview;

- have an interview.

The first thing that those who plan to apply for political asylum think about is a search for a lawyer. You should know that there is and always has been the opportunity to find a pro-bono attorney (i.e. free). As a rule, the search for such a lawyer takes several months - you need to interest him with your life story, go through several interviews, until the lawyer decides whether to take your case for free. It must be said that immediately after the 2016 elections, a “boom” of pro-bon assistance began - many offices offered their services to refugees and asylum seekers, and many people managed to find a lawyer rather quickly. However, by the spring of 2017, the hype had subsided, and today the search for a pro-bono lawyer has become even longer than before.

“It becomes more difficult to find lawyers, because due to the delay of the Asylum Office, lawyers cannot take on new cases,” says Alexei Gorshkov. - More and more guys are trying to find paid lawyers or to apply for asylum on their own. I am afraid that this may lead to negative consequences due to ignorance of the specifics of the legislation and language. With paid lawyers also need to be careful, because there are many scammers. If you are planning to contact a private attorney, ask around your friends and acquaintances, carefully search at Google to find feedback about this attorney. Make sure he has a license. ”

Alexey Gorshkov, co-president of RUSAL LGBT, organizations of Russian-speaking queer emigrants to the United States. Photos from the personal archive

Arriving in the United States, the tourist gets the right to stay in the country for six months from the date of entry - so-called. "Visa corridor". The visa itself may expire after two or more years after the end of the corridor, because the standard visa validity period is three years. It is important not to confuse the visa corridor and the validity of the visa! As a rule, most of the lawyers of the “old school” say the same thing: you need to apply strictly at the end of the visa corridor, closer to the end of all visa validity periods. The year is the officially allowed time, during which you should make a decision: if you submit after having been in the US for more than a year, then you will have to justify the delay for serious reasons, as the USCIS website indicates, otherwise even an excellent, well-founded case will fail at the interview.

Most of those who are currently awaiting an interview, once took advantage of this advice and applied for the outcome of the first year of their stay. Since November 2016, there have been changes: in the short period from the election to the inauguration, many people sent I-589 forms without a case (the so-called “empty case”) in order to receive confirmation of receipt before the inauguration day (January 20 2017) since even in the case of a change in legislation in this case, the laws would not have retroactive effect. (In such cases, the preparation of the case takes place while waiting for a call to meet with the officer, and the collected materials, including the history of life, are brought on the day of the interview or are sent a little earlier).

Although today the panic has subsided, information about the possibility of filing an “empty case” while the tourbiz is still operating has spread among the new arrivals. However, many lawyers refuse to do this, arguing that if the applicant is called for an interview before the period of authorized stay expires, he is immediately deported instead of being transferred to an immigration court. Meanwhile, for the current situation, this behavior is a blunder. If ten years ago there were chances that the waiting for an interview would be a couple of months, it was true, then today the official waiting time from the filing date is from 2 to 5 years, according to the schedule on the USCIS website. In this case, the later you submit the official form, the later you receive all the other documents; this means, for example, that you will receive a work permit for half a year later than your acquaintance who “took the risk”. This factor, as a rule, seems insignificant when you just got off the plane - but in the new American life it gradually comes to the fore, because without a social security number and work permit you are deprived of many vital opportunities. In addition, after the end of the visa corridor, you become an “illegal”, regardless of your future intentions. And with any verification of your documents, if your expired visa is discovered, you will become a candidate for deportation. In this case, you will have to submit the necessary forms from the immigration prison, and your movements will be extremely limited.

Please note: unlike refugees who receive a social security number and a work permit immediately after arrival, asylum seekers can apply for their receipt almost half a year after sending the case. Previously, the answer came in about a month (the official deadline is 30 days). Today, in most cases, it is not one month, but two or three or even more. Some applicants seek help from local congressmen — after such an appeal, the process goes a little faster. Nevertheless, it is possible to apply for outside help only if more than 75 days have passed since the submission! .. Recently, such periods seemed something out of the ordinary - today asylum seekers immediately warn you that you should not expect to receive documents quickly.

Aleksey Gorshkov confirms: “In addition to everything else, the bureaucratic machine is becoming tougher - the wait for obtaining a work permit, the response by interview is extended by an infinite period”.

How are political changes and work permits related? It would seem - you don’t get long, and so what? .. But it’s not a secret to anyone that for many years in large cities it is considered normal to hire workers for cash from among those who do not have a work permit. Of course, it is impossible to live for six or more months in such an expensive country as the United States without working - therefore most of the asylum seekers start looking for work in cash almost from the first day. In some places, for example, in New York, employers who hired undocumented migrants were even encouraged. But everything changed overnight: it became more and more difficult to find work for cash because the frightened owners of small businesses began to look for people only “with permission”. According to the law, they are absolutely right - nevertheless, the life of migrants, and in particular asylum seekers of all categories, was greatly complicated.

It is worth remembering that American laws protect, in the event of a check, by no means the employer - on the contrary, it is he who will pay the fine, because it is he who does not deduct the necessary taxes and fees to the treasury by hiring people without "papers". Something threatens an asylum seeker if he still has not fallen out of the visa corridor - but has not yet officially applied for asylum. In this case, his work in the United States will be interpreted as a violation of visa purposes.

More careful attention began to demand and movement around the country. Today it is strictly not recommended to use a foreign passport with an expired visa corridor for flights across the USA: you can be taken directly to the prison from the plane. At the first opportunity, it is advised to get an identity card and use it exclusively, and leave the foreign passport at home. Particular attention - trips to the border states and states outside the mainland: visiting them increases the risk of verification of documents.

The incident with the Russian-speaking asylum seeker Denis Davydov, who detained and sent to an immigration prison, showed that even being in the status of an asylum seeker, having a work permit and a social insurance number, you are still at risk. Denis was detained during the verification of documents when traveling to the US Virgin Islands. He was later accused of exceeding his stay on a tourist visa, despite the fact that his status had long ago changed and he was an asylum seeker. For a month and a half Denis spent in an immigration prisonwhile lawyers and friends fought for his right to stay in the USA. Today Davydov is free - however, many people, despite the already legal opportunity to stay, still have a worm of doubt: is there a pause between the end of the visa corridor and the beginning of the status under PRUCOL (in fact, this is a state of "out of status", which, nevertheless, determines that you are in the US legally and not subject to deportation. - Auth.) somewhere and will not cause problems? .. Besides, this incident shows that although sometimes the risk seems minimal, in fact, if you want, you can "cling" to a gap in the legislation and blow up the case "out of nothing." There would be a desire - and the immigration police have a desire today - and a reason to find is absolutely real.

Alexey Gorshkov: “The main problem that arose after Trump's inauguration is panic, which is often based on rumors. After signing by Trump decree on the closure of entry into the country to representatives of seven countries our guys began to worry that it could touch them. This is not directly related to them, but, indirectly, these decrees unleash the hands of the immigration police, which is rampant in many states, arresting people without trial. We already know about such incidents in our community. ”

Alexey Gorshkov, co-president of RUSAL LGBT, organizations of Russian-speaking queer emigrants to the United States. Photos from the personal archive

How to protect yourself

With the advent of the Trump era, ethnic communes and groups of refugees and asylum-seekers regularly began to be feverish with messages like: “Today there will be an ICE raid in such and such an area, be careful!”. According to official information, raids relate primarily to those who have committed serious crimes. However, as already mentioned, any random check for a person outside the status is fatal.

Now it is recommended to always carry with you copies of documents confirming the status. This is a confirmation that USCIS received your case (with your asylum seeker number), I-757 form, and if available, a work permit. In addition, of course, you need to carry an identity card. If you have "dropped out" of all statuses, then it is not advisable to carry a foreign passport with you. On it will be easy to check the expiration date of your visa corridor.

In addition, fraud has become more frequent - when a call is received on your phone, allegedly from organizations such as USCIS or ICE. You are offered to come to the office with documents on hand, are threatened with problems and even deportation.

Anna, a blogger, got political asylum in 2014: “Any call from USCIS, ICE, IRS is most likely fraud. These services do not call. I know one case of fraud, when a person's phone was hacked, and USCIS was displayed on the screen instead of a phone number, and when they called the familiar law office, the call was redirected to him by the fraudsters. As a result, he went to a meeting with a fake ICE with a dummy lawyer. Now fraudsters know all the details of his case, they had his phone and credit cards in their hands for two hours, and he can only guess how this will end for him, except for their attempts to write off money from credit cards. ”

Nevertheless, ICE officers can really come to the house and even try to get into the apartment using a false reason - for example, saying that they are investigating a crime, and you are required as a witness, etc. Rights make you open the door without judicial ICE officers have no warrant. The algorithm of communication with officers is as follows:

- Ask for the name and title, show the ID (in the peephole or slipping under the door);

- ask for what purpose the agents visited your apartment;

- Ask for a court order (this order must be signed by the judge, not by the ICE itself);

- if you are detained - you have the right to remain silent until your lawyer appears. You and your family members are not required to answer questions;

- if possible, avoid showing the passport and passport of the country of origin;

- do not provide physical resistance and remember that any of your words can be used against you.

It is important that until you have received confirmed PRUCOL status, you must remain absolutely law abiding. Even minor offenses - such as minor traffic violations, commuting on the subway without a ticket, smoking or drinking beer in inappropriate places - will result in a small fine for a US resident, a hassle for an asylum seeker, and - with multiple fines - a problem in obtaining a green card; and for a person without status - simply deportation immediately after checking documents.

After the interview, everything also becomes less smooth. Today it is not uncommon to conduct a double interview - the second is held a couple of weeks after the first, after which the verification of all the FBI applicant’s data begins. This test may take several months, during which a positive decision will not be announced. Long checks exhaust and tear nerves and without that exhausted by expectation to people. "I know about situations when people after an interview are thoroughly checked for espionage, says A. Gorshkov. “This is a completely understandable trend in connection with the political scandal involving the entire Trump family - I mean the ties with the Russian government and the elections.” However, the asylum-seeking community remains optimistic. After all, the American dream is not always easily attainable. But isn't it worth it? ..

“Today more than ever, asylum seekers have to be patient and to be accurate in everything,” recommends Sebastien Maguire. - At all stages of the process, we can expect delays that go beyond the norm. As for accuracy, I mean that the case should be as perfect as possible. Some officials with the encouragement of Trump began to interpret the law in the direction dangerous to potential asylum seekers. And if previously highly qualified legal assistance was simply important, now it is critically necessary. Despite these reservations, the good news is that asylum seekers from different countries continue to win their cases. If you are afraid of returning to the country of outcome, then learn the rules for granting asylum and, if you find this option the best, achieve your goal. ”

Dictionary:

Asylee - Asylum seeker.

Undocumentary - a person without any visa / immigration status, and not subject to PRUCOL.

ICE - US Immigration Police.

PRUCOL - Permanent Residence Under Color of Law. All asylum seekers until they receive status granted asylum (obtained asylum) have status under PRUCOL. In fact, this state is “out of status”, which, nevertheless, determines that you are in the US legally and are not subject to deportation. PRUCOL is not an immigration status.

Order of deportation / removal - deportation order.

A-number - the number of the asylum seeker.

Acknowledgment of receipt - delivery confirmation.

Pending - the status in which all asylum-seekers are in fact until their approval. The literal translation is "pending."

Work authorization - the right to work in the US legally

EAD - work permit.

SSN - Social Security Number (social security number).

Useful links:

Asylum application form: instructions and patterns

Getting a work permit

Портал about political asylum in the US in English

American Civil Liberties Union

Blog about self-applying for asylum in Russian

Getting Pro Bono Legal Aid - all expat groups, New York

Getting Pro Bono Legal Aid - for victims of violence

Getting Pro Bono Legal Aid - LGBT people

Read also on ForumDaily:

How to get political asylum in the United States

How to get a free medical insurance in New York while you are waiting for political asylum

Three stories of our immigrants who were imprisoned in the USA for illegal immigrants

“I have nothing more to lose”: the revelations of the Russian nelegalka in the USA

10 ways to stay in the USA

What if an immigration officer knocked on your door

What you need to know, applying for asylum in the US

Miscellanea LGBT community Educational program Editor's Choice political asylum in the united states
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